“While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.” Stephen R. Covey
This week international sports-cycling legend Lance Armstrong publicly admitted that he had doped during all seven of his Tour de France victories. This was after years of denial, lying during testimonies, and attacks on those who spoke the truth.
While falls from grace sometimes never happen publicly, with some taking their secrets to the grave, there is no hiding when you do bad things. It all comes out. Karma may not hit you on the head in this lifetime, but it certainly will in the next.
Armstrong’s career was built on ill-gotten gains. It’s no different than conning an old lady out of her savings even if you use that money to feed the poor. You did “good” at the expense of doing “bad” and that is inexcusable. In legalese, they call it the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine:
any evidence gained illegally is tainted whether it is accurate or not.
Defenders point to the good he did to help children through his philanthropy and the Livestrong Foundation. Their rationalization is rooted in Machiavellianism where the end justifies the means. Even the Good Book says “Treasures gained dishonestly profit no one, but righteousness rescues from death.”(Proverbs 10:2)
Like any publisher, I look for authors whose work embodies the philosophy and ethics of our readership. I take their written word as proof of their beliefs since most of the time I do not meet them in person. One particular author wrote an extraordinary book of high standards exhorting the reader to live their life in a truthful manner. As soon as the book came out, I discovered the author was not who they represented themselves to be. I immediately pulled the book from our website and other promotional channels. You see, even if it sold 100 Million copies and made me rich beyond my wildest dreams, I don’t want to profit from the fruit of the poisonous inkwell.
No one should be punished for the rest of their lives for white collar crime but if they think an apology and restitution erases the consequences of their actions they are idiots. Trust is like a sheet of paper. Once you wrinkle it up, even though you smooth it out there will always be creases and it will never be seamless again. Think Before you Act
, should be changed to Think of the Consequences Before You Act
. We can justify anything to ourselves due to our inherently selfish, short-sighted natures. But if we take the next step and consider how this will affect everyone else on the planet, it just might save us from crumpling up everything good we’ve written on the pages of our lives.